Thursday, March 4, 2010

Servery Conundrum

It has been a very interesting and challenging year for Dining Services this academic term with the opening of the West Servery, closing Baker kitchen for a re-build, and demolishing the Lovett and Will Rice kitchens; to make way for the new East servery. I would like to put into perspective what I am seeing and what the students are perceiving. While we are eliminating small dining operations in favor of larger dining halls, the relevant truth is that one servery will be considered better than another. The challenge is to reduce the gap between perceived quality and service. Much of this has to do with infrastructure…

West servery is shiny and new while simultaneously constructed to offer the most optimal flow for retrieving food. The kitchen is right-sized optimally allowing the kitchen staff to work efficiently and effectively as well. The design, colors, and lighting of the servery provide the best visual results of the food and at the same time has a very talented Executive Chef to optimize the experience. Chef Roger.

You may be surprised to know that we were very conscientious about moving Chef Roger to the West servery from the North servery. Our primary concern was that the perceived quality of food would be diminished at the North servery. As a matter of fact, the chefs did a wonderful job and North Servery remained stable with the introduction of Chef Adam. The North servery was also designed and constructed with natural light that is highly conducive to the presentation of food.

This of course leads me to the South servery which is the oldest of the three and quite frankly designed poorly by modern standards. At the same time, I have been hearing that the quality of food is less than the other serveries. One of the primary problems and this was echoed by a recent design consultant we invited to look at the servery; is the lighting, colors, and layout. In the consultant’s words, “there is no heartbeat.” Let’s face the reality, there is no natural light, low ceilings, a red quarry tile floor, and black serving lines. Serving any quality of food under these circumstances would challenge the most experienced chef. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Chef Kyle for doing his absolute best with the current situation. But wait! It’s even more challenging than you might imagine. While serving 19 meal periods a week to Hanszen and Wiess Colleges, South servery is transporting 15 meals per week to Lovett at a make-shift serving line set-up in the commons until East servery is completed. But wait! There’s even more… Our entire catering department is operating out of South as well. During the next fall term, South servery will be doing the same with Will Rice as they are with Lovett currently. What does this all mean? Chef Kyle is managing three times the volume of other serveries in an inadequate space. Concurrently he has to manage multiple menus per day where the other serveries only have to manage a few. This is because catering orders are all unique.

Where we go from here… We are negotiating and planning how to make South servery more inviting, efficient, and effective by several means. All of which I will not relay here, but one primary project will be to relocate certain resources. The most important point to note is that we recognize and are working on it.

South will continue to have a challenging year and in the next fall term with transporting food to Lovett and Will Rice, but that will soon be alleviated in January when East servery opens. I ask for the students’ patience and support of our excellent staff that are working in the most challenging environment I have seen in my 22 years of dining operations. Thank you Chef Kyle!


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